May 12th: Dorothy Hodgkin!

Today’s Google Doodle honors Dorothy Hodgkin, a Nobel Prize-winning British chemist born on this date in 1910. Speaking Up first wrote about Hodgkin last year, as one of our May honorees for the Doodle-Worthy Women series.

The Google Doodle celebrating the birth of Dorothy Hodgkin, posted May 12, 2014.

The Google Doodle celebrating the birth of Dorothy Hodgkin, posted May 12, 2014.

Today, let’s take another look at this illustrious scientist.

Hodgkin studied at Oxford and Cambridge, eventually settling at Oxford for a career that combined teaching and research. She grew a large research group focused on the study of the chemistry of molecules that are important to life. Hodgkin is credited with furthering the techniques and applications of X-ray crystallography to uncover the structure of proteins and other biological molecules. These techniques allow an understanding of the structure of molecules and, thus, their function, and Hodgkin’s work uncovered the structure of insulin, penicillin, vitamin B12, cholesterol, and others.

Modeling the structure of penicillin was one of Hodgkin’s greatest achievements, because it could only be used effectively for the treatment of infection if it could be isolated in its pure state. At the same time, its complex structure represented a problem that other chemists working in the field were unable to solve. Her work on vitamin B12 was also very important, allowing for the treatment of its deficiency (the disease known as pernicious anemia).

Dorothy Hodgkin's Nobel Prize portrait.

Dorothy Hodgkin’s Nobel Prize portrait.

The vast body of chemical knowledge to which Hodgkin contributed earned her the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1964, only the third woman to take home the prize in that category (after Marie and Irène Curie). In addition to the Nobel, Hodgkin was also honored with Fellowship in the Royal Society (plus its Copley Medal), the Order of Merit, the Lenin Peace Prize, and recognition in the British “Women of Achievement” stamp series.

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